Ever feel like advertisers are just corporate versions of children who fight on the playground and then whine to the teacher about who broke the rules or who hit who first? Stories like this sometimes make us wonder if the FTC feels like it’s managing a classroom full of brawling kindergarteners.
MillerCoors has made some pretty lofty claims about its Coors Light can of late, calling it “the world’s most refreshing can,” promising a “smoother, more refreshing pour,” and even claiming that the can “could change everything … this technological masterpiece will revolutionize barbecues, beach parties and tailgates.”
But what does any of that actually mean? Is the can truly technologically superior to other beer cans? Does it really make beer taste better? That’s what competitor Anheuser-Busch would like to know, so it filed a complaint with The National Advertising Division of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council, which investigates complaints to ensure advertisers don’t overstep federal regulations.
In hopes of settling the matter, the council attempted to engage MillerCoors in a review of its claims. Generally, it’s a good move for advertisers to play ball with the ASRC, as doing so can prevent government involvement. MillerCoors, however, refused to participate in the review, prompting the council to forward the case to the Federal Trade Commission.
“It’s particularly unusual for a major advertiser not to participate,” said Linda Bean, an ASRC spokeswoman. As AdWeek points out, only four of the 111 cases reviewed by NAD (the investigative branch of the ASRC) were referred to the FTC last year.
According to NAD, MillerCoors declined to provide a substantial response to Anheuser-Busch’s challenge, calling it “frivolous.” The company further defended its claims about its cans as either “puffery”, (an unprovable claim that is understood to be over-the-top) or truthful. The company also told NAD that the TV, radio and digital campaigns, which are summer-themed, would be permanently discontinued by the end of September.
While we do think it would have been a better PR strategy to just comply with the NAD investigation, we can certainly understand MillerCoors’ frustration. Upon viewing the below ad spot, “puffery” is definitely the word we would use to describe it — the scientist character even admits that he gets carried away while touting the merits of the Coors Light can.
Furthermore, we often find ourselves rolling our eyes at “frivolous” complaints being lobbed back and forth between competitors — the FTC exists to crack down on advertisers deliberately trying to deceive consumers with serious falsehoods like bogus health claims or other potentially damaging lies, not to babysit while competing advertisers try to undermine each other’s efforts with petty finger-pointing (to be fair, MillerCoors has done some whining about Anheuser-Busch, also).
C’mon, kids — play nice. Or grow up. Or something.